The Chronicles of Narnia.

C.S. Lewis, you genius, you.

One week this summer I read all seven of the books in The Chronicles of Narnia. In order (of original publication). Straight through.

And what I read there really resonated with me.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve loved these books since I was a youngster, sent to bed without my precious book because I’d been caught reading under the covers long past my bedtime.

But sometimes you have to have a little more of life under your belt to get it.

And I know I haven’t lived that long. I’ll probably get more out of these books when I read them after 10 more years.

However, in order to speed up the process, I checked out a few books to give me some perspective.

Books on Books on Books

And one of them is brilliant. Thomas Williams’ The Heart of the Chronicles of Narnia: Knowing God Here by Finding Him There. I love this book. Everyone I’ve spent time with recently knows how much I’m learning from this book because I can’t stop talking about it. (Sorry small group friends). But I wanted to post some of the cool stuff I’ve learned and some pretty spectacular quotes.

Let’s begin with this gem:

“We ordinary, bumbling, sin-prone humans can be friends, of all things, with the Creator and Ruler of the universe. He cherishes us. He delights in us. He wants to be with us and longs to have us love him in return. In Narnia Aslan shows this love of God up close and personal in such a way that we cannot possibly miss the truth” (Williams 12).

Can we take a moment to absorb that? God wants to be our friend. Yes, he is our guide, our King, and our Savior. But he also wants to be a friend. How amazing is that? He wants to have a relationship with each and every one of his broken creatures. This is something that I find difficult to truly wrap my brain around, but am insanely honored by the privilege.

Also awesome to think about:

“a time is coming when we will be freed from our imprisonment in this fallen world, and we will be able to see face to face the Jesus who freed us. At that time you will feel exactly as [the] released lion did. You will be unable to contain your joy as you look on his dear face. At that moment you will see in Jesus everything you now see in your dearest beloved, but intensified beyond your wildest imagining. When you see him, you will know that he is and has been the One you have always loved more that anything else in your life” (13).

Sometimes I try to imagine what heaven will be like. What I’ll feel like. What I’ll do. (Cue music: “I Can Only Imagine). But most recently, my picture is that of a moment of intense and overwhelming joy, peace, happiness, awe, etc. all in one instantaneous moment. I’ll be enveloped by the presence of God. Wow. What a concept.

Sadly, we aren’t always so heaven-focused:

“Sometimes a mere scare won’t do the job, and it takes pain to get our attention. We become lulled by the comforts and philosophies of this under land we live in – the Shadowlands, as Lewis called our world – and forget the bright promise of heaven. Sometimes nothing but pain will clear our heads and shake us awake” (123).

This was one of the harder ideas to swallow. Not because I don’t think it is true, but rather that sometimes I wish it wasn’t. Ideally, we could follow God always and always in Joy. However, sometimes we get too comfortable with our lives. We start to forget. We sometimes need an awakening and a revival in our soul. Williams quotes C.S. Lewis soon after: “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: It is God’s megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” The world dulls our senses. Sometimes we need more than a gentle nudge to come back to reality and run back to God’s open arms.

More on God’s open arms and constant companionship:

“If you are honestly seeking God, you need not worry about finding him. He will find you” (148).

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” – Matthew 7:7-8, NIV

God loves us and cares for us. We only need to cry out to Him and he will answer. (Psalm 18:6). God will find us. He is always there.

If we delight in Him, our lives will be full of delight:

“Satisfy your longings with substitutes, and you get only continuing emptiness. Satisfy them by loving God, and you get not only him but all his gifts as well” (176).

“Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.” – Psalm 27:4, ESV).

Once we submit our hearts to God, He changes our hearts. We are filled with His desires. Therefore, once we have these God-given desires, He fulfills them. And a life with God’s desires is selfless and incredibly satisfying. However, if we chase after worldly desires, we are often met with despair and an unquenchable thirst for more. God satisfies and fills our lives with blessings.

How do we love God?

“The key to loving God…is to see God’s love in every good thing that happens to us, both the large things and the small, to make that awareness the lens through which we view our existence” (177).

This is hands down the most amazing aspect of how God works: how He speaks and shows Himself in the little moments. He has us read the exact quote we needed to hear. He leads us to the bible passage that calms our fears. He sends a friend with a comforting presence. He sends someone to speak the words your heart needed to hear. Something happens that shouldn’t have. A job offer comes out of nowhere. Funding seems to fall from the sky. You end up in a foreign country for four and a half months, not exactly sure how you got there. God works in every moment: the big and the small. He is for us and He is with us.

“This continual awareness of God’s activity in your life is a kind of ongoing prayer that will draw you closer to him and increase your sense of his continual presence” (178).

Have you ever taken a moment to sit in the presence of God in quiet reverence? Have you taken a moment out of your busy schedule and just allowed God to fill you with his presence and peace? Have you ever realized that He has been with you all along, it just took you some time to realize He was there? God is with us wherever we go, whatever we do. (Joshua 1:9, Deu 31:6, Matt 28:20, Psalm 139). He is there. Cry out to Him: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pcmUYDU-2DY

God also loves us so much:

“Think about the greatest love you have ever known; it is only a dim shadow of the love that God has for you. When you finally see him, you will know that you have just met the love of your life. You will know that he is what you have really been dreaming of and longing for in every desire you ever had. When you see him, you will want nothing more than to spend all eternity basking in his presence” (178).

How awesome is that?

And now we arrive at the author’s closing remarks:

“Everything in Narnia leads ultimately to Aslan. Everything in our world leads ultimately to God. Everything in Narnia shouts the love of Aslan for his Narnians. Everything in our world shouts the love of God for us. Just as Narnia has Aslan, we have a God who loves us and desires nothing for us but ecstatic joy. Aslan is an accurate reflection of Jesus Christ. He calls us through every created thing to find in him the source of all joy and love him in return, thus finding our own true selves in a relationship with the One whom we were created to love” (180).

“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” – Psalm 19:1, ESV

We are broken. We are needy. We are sinful beings.

Our God is evident. He is present. He is waiting with open arms.

 

Advertisements

The end of one adventure, the beginning of many more.

IMG_2120

I’m home. I’m sitting in my bedroom. In Kansas. Five thousand and some miles away from the place I called home these last four and a half months.

Returning home is a weird feeling. I had to say goodbye to some people that I have grown incredibly close to these past few months. They were my support system, my friends, my brothers and sisters in Christ. Some of the goodbyes were more like see-you-laters and some had more of a tone of finality.

But one thing is for certain: I’m back from Chile.

And I’m different.

Time changes people. God changes hearts. Experience changes perspective. Travel increases awareness. Study abroad changes lives.

I’m coming back different.

IMG_3093

I’m leaving Chile a different person than when I arrived. I’ve seen God work in my life and the lives of those around me. I’ve grown in my faith and in my relationship with Christ. I’ve met some of the most wonderful people. I’m sad to leave, but I’m also excited to see what God has in store for my life. I’m not sure where He is leading me or what He has in store, but I know that He has the best in mind. And I know I can trust Him. God has shown me that He can do wonderful things through His followers. He can do so much more than we can think or imagine.

Ephesians 3:20-21 (NLT)

Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.

God’s been at work in my life and in the lives of those around me. He’s shaped me to work for His kingdom. The process hasn’t been all enjoyable. He had to weed out some bad habits and prune back my own desires. But what God has done in my life has all been in love. He’s been working to  shape me into a better follower, friend, and person. He’s shown me my weaknesses and my strengths. He makes all things work together for our good.

Romans 8:28 (NLT):

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.

God’s changed me. He’s changed my heart. He’s changed my desires. He’s changed my life.

And now comes the hard part: adjusting to my ‘old’ life with the ‘new’ Jean. The culture shock returning home is harder than the culture shock of going to a new place. When you enter a new culture, almost everything is different, but you expect that. You know that you need to be flexible and open to differences. When you come back, the culture is familiar, but you are the different one. People expect the same person that left. But you have changed. You have grown. Sometimes in ways that you’re not even sure of.

So clashes happen.

People are confused.

You are confused.

But thankfully, God is a steadfast refuge:

God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble.

– Psalm 46:1 (NLT)

He’s there in times of confusion, struggle, and conflict. But He’s also there to share our joy and happiness.

God is a steadfast companion.

And I know that I can lean on Him.

I’m ready to see what He has in store for me. He has something wonderful planned, and all I have to do is trust Him.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. – Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

IMG_1827